The seasonable weather we have enjoyed so far this week has been a welcome change to the unseasonable lows that have been niggling at our nerves to date as we steam forward towards July. The suddenly consistent mid-20’s & sunny weather encourages me to walk our neighbourhood of Parkdale as I’m keen to do on a regular basis. One of the things I love about Parkdale is its walkability. The pulse of the neighbourhood can be taken anywhere from 10-60 minutes while I walk down Queen, King, or Jameson.
I started to offer my time as a volunteer leader in my friends Youth Ministry right around the new millennium. It was Y2K, a crazy time for all of us. (Spoiler Alert: the world didn’t end). Our church building was stationed in the neighbourhood of Meadowvale in Mississauga, and my friend and I would spend a fair bit of time walking the neighbourhood. What immediately caught my eye was how well-known my friend was as we walked the street. Passers-by would, with regularity, call out to my friend wherever we went. It wasn’t a popularity contest, but rather an indication that my friend, the Youth Pastor, was faithfully present in his neighbourhood. People knew him, and he knew them. It added life and vitality to Meadowvale. Depending on where you live, this may be somewhat of a foreign experience these days. We’re so “connected” and yet never more have we been so disconnected from our neighbours.
I’ve been intentional in practicing this faithful presence in Parkdale for a year and a half now. Chances are that when I take a stroll down Queen Street, I’ll bump into someone I know (and who knows me). Exchanging pleasantries on the street has become one of my favourite Parkdalian staples, especially with those who might otherwise go un-noticed. I consider it a great privilege and joy to acknowledge by name the presence of one who is marginalized, whether they are playing guitar outside the LCBO, or selling books laid out on the sidewalk. I think of Jesus, and how he touched the leper who was bound to the street, cut off from the life and vitality of his town due to his crippling illness. Jesus not only acknowledged the leper’s presence – he touched the man who was considered “untouchable.” There’s healing in that, and our streets need healing.